According to The Washington Post, fewer people are majoring in English than ever before, despite the fact that enrollment in higher education is at an all-time high.
This is likely the result of the United States’ turbulent economy, and a rising need for job security. Right now, more people are choosing to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), for the sake of a career path. More often than not, people believe that studying STEM leads directly to getting a good job more often than studying anything related to the humanities. Or, at the very least, college students fear the idea of a useless, $40,000 degree.
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However, Robert Shiller, economist, author, and Nobel Prize winner, believes that English majors are more necessary to our struggling economy than ever before. In his new work, Narrative Economics, Shiller argues that the ways people talk about markets, and the stories we write about them, can have a huge impact on markets themselves.
For example, Shiller cites the phrase “anyone can be a homeowner” as a key contributor to the housing bubble. He writes:
“Traditional economic approaches fail to examine the role of public beliefs in major economic events – that is, narrative. Economists can best advance their science by developing and incorporating into it the art of narrative economics.”
The Washington Post cites several other economists with opinions similar to Shiller’s, but the most damning evidence comes from The National Center for Education Statistics. Data from this source shows that while a computer science major might make more money than an English major directly after graduation, English majors ages 25 to 29 had a lower unemployment rate than both math and computer science majors in 2017.
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On top of this, English majors tend to have skills that are less affected by the passage of time, than those who major in anything related to science or technology. The Washington Post’s Heather Long explains:
“After about a decade, STEM majors start exiting their job fields as their skills are no longer the latest and greatest. In contrast, many humanities majors work their way to high-earning management positions. By middle age, average pay looks very similar across many majors.”
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So, feel free to show your dad this article the next time he complains about your degree in medieval literature. You’ll be grateful for it in your forties!
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